This week Jenny Pagdin talks about the inexpressible in poetry and her experiences of post-natal psychosis which she explores in her pamphlet Caldbeck. Here she responds to the poetry prompt set by Jamie Osborn in the first episode to write a poem on borders and intimacy. Please submit your own response to this and other prompts on the podcast here.
When I crossed your border I ought to have held your language – tactile and direct – on my unwieldy tongue.
and when I edged onto your landlocked patch I should have offered you something for your integrity.
And those nights you lay drifting, permeable, I ought to have carried you through the crowd of voices like an untuned radio in the dark.
Martin Figura was, and still is, a poet of great wit and humour but beneath the laughter lay memories of a troubled childhood and a dark secret that very few people knew until he started to write about it.
On this episode Martin talks about how writing about the death of his mother at the hands of his father was the beginning of a journey that changed him as a writer. The result was some of his strongest work in the acclaimed collection and show Whistle.
During a wide ranging discussion covering art, literature, photography and social history, Martin explains how he approached writing about this tragic episode using metaphor to reflect feelings and personal experiences.
Martin’s writing exercise: Think of an event that you’ve found too challenging to write about, or have simply not successfully written from. Come up with an abstract noun for the emotion the event evokes in you, such as blame, shame, anger, joy etc. Then make it concrete, a thing or creature or person and write about it, using some detail from your event.
On the podcast Martin reads the poem Sloth by Stephen Dobyns which is based on this technique and Patrick responds with a poem which uses flamingos to talk about feelings of isolation and struggling to fit in.
Please send responses via email, post in the comments section below or share on social media with the hashtag #poetrynonstop.
This week’s guest on the podcast is Martin Figura talking about how he wrote his acclaimed collection and show Whistle which deals with the death of his mother at the hands of his father. Confronting this traumatic childhood experience transformed his writing and led him to explore life experiences through metaphor, resulting in some of his strongest work. Here is a poem as performed in the show.
This week poet and film studies and creative writing lecturer Sue Burge talks about her love of film and poetry and where the two meet. She shares some of her poems which blend classic film imagery, scenes from real life and her vivid imagination and sets a writing exercise that encourages you to take the director’s chair as you look back on your life.
Sue has a busy schedule of writing workshops and courses. You can find out more about these and her two poetry collections on her website www.sueburge.uk
Sue’s writing exercise:
Choose a scene/incident from your life and write about it in black and white. Give it a vintage film feel. This is your first stanza, it can be as long or short as you like. For your second stanza, remake the incident/scene in colour – make the language/tone different from the first part, give it a more contemporary feel. You could, for example, do the black and white scene from a child’s point of view and the colour scene from an adult point of view with the benefit of hindsight.
Please send responses via email, post in the comments section below or share on social media with the hashtag #poetrynonstop
Sue Burge lives in North Norfolk. Her poems have appeared in a wide range of publications such as Mslexia, Orbis, Brittle Star, The LampeterReview, Magma, The French Literary Review, The North,Stride and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her debut pamphlet, Lumière, was published by Hedgehog Press in 2018 and her first collection, In the Kingdom of Shadows, was published by Live Canon, also in 2018. Sue has undertaken a variety of poetry commissions and has performed and read her work extensively. As well as face-to-face courses locally she runs a very successful writing course by e-mail subscription, The Writing Cloud. More information at http://www.sueburge.uk
People need help. If someone comes and knocks on your door you try to help them… and people are knocking at the door of Europe.
In the summer of 2016 Jamie Osborn, who had just graduated from Cambridge University, went to the Greek Island Chios to work as a volunteer on a refugee camp. He found people not only lacking possessions and a home but basic respect and dignity. On this episode he talks about how he and other volunteers tried to give them their dignity back and shares some of the poems that came out of that experience.
He also challenges listeners to write a poem about borders and intimacy. Patrick shares his response inspired by an item on This American Life.
Please share your own responses to the prompt by leaving a comment on this post, emailing via the contact form or sharing on social media with the hashtag #poetrynonstop. Poems maybe published online or featured on future podcasts.
For more advice and resources on writing poetry and to support this podcast please consider purchasing Patrick’s book Poetry Non-Stop
Jamie Osborn is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in Carcanet’s New Poetries VII (April 2018) and in literary magazines including PN Review, the TLS, Poetry London, Blackbox Manifold, Perverse and elsewhere. His translations, together with Nineb Lamassu, of poems by Assyrian Iraqi refugees featured in the “Great Flight” issue of Modern Poetry in Translation and he is now a board member of MPT. He now lives in Norwich, where he works as a charity press officer and is a climate activist. Facebook | Twitter
You can read more about Jamie’s time in Chios and more poems on the Carcanet blog.
Jamie recommends the following poems and publications:
This poem by Jamie Osborn is part of a series written in response to working on a refugee camp in Chios, Greece. Tune into the podcast this Thursday to hear him talk about his experiences and share more poems from the series.
Suleiman, your breath stinks. Of smoke, of
drink. Though you’ve not a cent or dinar
to your name, there’s money burning holes
in your hands you peer through. You ask, so
I buy you hair-gel, and you eat it,
believing in the alcohol. It
will make you handsome. The sleepless nights
will darken your lids, make your lashes
seem less long. Come on, Suleiman, I’ll
buy you coffee and – though I know you
will not touch it, for your mother’s sake –
we’ll get stoned on pot, dance together
naked down the street. Set the textbooks
ringing – arm in ashy arm, we’ll be indi-
gents, two island-hoppers with nothing
left to revel in but Marlboros.
Originally published as part of the series Chios (a case of knives) inPN Review 246 (March – April 2019)